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IT IS AMERICA WHICH IS THE ENEMY OF THE WORLD

Iraqi authorities were also very much aware of modern resonances in the form of sentiments being expressed throughout most of the rest of the world. Asked by CNN whether Iraq did not feel isolated, a Ba'ath Party official named Hamis Sahan Bashir responded, "No, it is America who is the enemy of the world."
IT IS AMERICA WHICH IS THE ENEMY OF THE WORLD
IT IS AMERICA WHICH IS THE ENEMY OF THE WORLD
Asia Times

Middle East

A star-spangled flag to the bull
By Paul Belden

AMMAN - In the early part of the last century, in an essay on American adventurism in the Philippines, Mark Twain suggested that, in the interest of accuracy, Congress might consider creating a modified flag for use in Manila: The white stripes, he wrote, could easily be painted over black, and the field of stars replaced by a skull-and-crossbones.

In Amman this past Saturday they didn't take the Betsy Ross act quite that far. But as huge, unmarked, four-jet military cargo planes screamed overhead and shook the sky - a five-times-a-day occurrence in this strategically-located Jordanian capital city - at least one of the 5,000 anti-war protesters who marched against American war plans in Iraq carried a version of the Stars and Stripes in which the starfield had been replaced by a swastika.

And, as you'd expect, the slogans followed suit: "Bush, you coward, the Arabs will not be humiliated!" the crowd chanted in Arabic, along with other mantras branding Bush as, by turns, a "terrorist", a "hegemon" and a "fool".

One difference between Saturday's wave of worldwide anti-war protests, and those that occurred exactly one month ago last weekend, was that this time around the protests had a significant presence in a number of Muslim countries - including key American ally Jordan.

Not only did they march in Amman, but sizable crowds also gathered in the politically-sensitive city of Irbid, located near the three-cornered border separating northern Jordan from Syria and Lebanon. Irbid, significantly, is one of several staging centers in Jordan for American and other coalition troops whose forces are officially acknowledged by authorities in this Hashemite kingdom as numbering about 5,000 but whose unofficial rumored force is at least double that number.

Irbid is also home to a large and volatile population of Palestinian refugees originally coming from the West Bank.

In Amman, at least, authorities were careful not to let tempers and crowds get out of control. For good reason: Last November, this country experienced its first armed conflicts between security forces and armed political groups since the Black September Palestinian uprisings in the early 1970s. The latest conflict occurred in the southern city of Ma'an in the wake of a police manhunt for suspects in the slaying of US diplomat Laurence Foley. In their search for a suspect named Mohamad Shalabi (also known by the nom de guerre Abu Sayyaf), police surrounded the city and cut off all communications. In the ensuing gun battles, four local militants and two soldiers were killed.

For all the shouting and the passion on display in Amman Saturday, there was no violence in the protests. Indeed, in the somewhat-disgusted words of a local university student who marched in protest: "At the end of the day, they [the Jordanian security forces] told us to disperse, and poof! - just like that - we all went home."

Authorities in Iraq had no misgivings about letting marchers vent their feelings. Scenes of shouting and waving marchers in the southern religious city of Karbala were flashed around the world via all major cable news channels. "Don't kill us," read a sign held by a pretty little girl who looked to be about five years old.

It was powerful television - and also something more.

Karbala holds special significance to followers of Islam, as it was the site of the last stand of Husain, son of Ali bin Abi Talib and the grandson of the holy Prophet Mohammed, against a large army mobilized by the Umayyad regime. Today the martyrdom of Husain is celebrated throughout the Muslim ummah - and it was clear that the Iraqi government was very aware the resonances involved when it allowed the media to cover the latest protests.

(Old resonances matter in the Middle East, and the city of Irbid is mentioned in the Bible - Book of Hosea, 10:14 - thus: "Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled Betharbel [Irbid] in the day of battle ...")

Iraqi authorities were also very much aware of modern resonances in the form of sentiments being expressed throughout most of the rest of the world. Asked by CNN whether Iraq did not feel isolated, a Ba'ath Party official named Hamis Sahan Bashir responded, "No, it is America who is the enemy of the world."

There's a certain irony in the recent protests and the often scathing anti-American feelings prevalent in the Arab world. One of the express goals of the "war on terror" was to find a way to somehow end the phenomenon of anti-Americanism being used in the Muslim world as a "safety valve" for people's anger and frustration over the failings of their own governments. The protests in Amman on Saturday made clear that this phenomenon has never been so strong or pronounced.

It is also clear that the American flag - the flag of which Twain lovingly wrote, "When we [Americans] have seen it in far lands - glimpsing it unexpectedly in that strange sky, waving its welcome and benediction to us - we have caught our breath, and uncovered our heads, and couldn't speak, for a moment, for the thought of what it was to us and the great ideals it stood for ..." that flag has never before, never in its history, been so hated and reviled by so many.

(2003 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact  content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

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